Addiction Policy News

OHSAM Pushes for Changes to “Dylan’s Law” Legislation

October 5, 2021

On October 4th, the Ohio Society of Addiction Medicine (OHSAM) sent a letter to Senator Terry Johnson of the Ohio General Assembly highlighting concerns with his recently introduced bill SB 216 or “Dylan’s Law.” Dylan’s Law would establish a new law regarding parental custody of an infant identified as an “abused child” due to being “substance-exposed.”  At-risk infants would be identified by reports to public children service agencies.  Once a report is received, if the results of a drug screen are positive, SB 216 could trigger the temporary removal of infants from parental custody until a series of requirements are met by the parents. These requirements include the completion of a required inpatient substance use recovery program administered by a community service provider, as well as required courses on caring for infants exposed to controlled substances.

In the letter, OHSAM praised Senator Johnson’s commitment to protecting the safety of children impacted by parental substance use, but highlighted concerns about the bill’s mechanisms for identifying parental substance use. Citing research data about discrimination in the reporting of drug use to law enforcement, OHSAM cautioned that the mechanism in the bill for handling reports of child abuse regarding an alleged substance-exposed infant could have a discriminatory impact on parents of color and low-income parents. Additionally, the letter outlined the pitfalls of using drug-testing—rather than clinical evaluation—as a sole determinant of substance use and substance use disorder (SUD) among parents. As currently written, Dylan’s Law conditions reunification with parental adherence to a strict drug-testing regiment, conflicting with existing medical best practices stated in the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s (ASAM) guidance on drug-testing. OHSAM pressed for changes to this conditional reunification, instead recommending an elevated decision-making role for clinical professionals.

Read the letter here.